Assistive technology

Assistive or adaptive technology (AT) is a generic term that includes any piece of equipment, system or product used by a person with a disability to perform specific tasks, improve function, gain access to information, facilitate learning, reading, and writing.

Specific assistive technologies can be grouped into 4 categories of application:

  • vision
  • communication
  • mobility
  • cognition

AT focuses on removing barriers by applying technologies to impact areas instead of focusing on specific products, thus removing barriers by using low to high technologies in the most effective way possible. Successful use of assistive technology means that training and continued support need to be provided by an assistive technology specialist.

An example of the benefit of AT: an individual who has difficulty writing or typing, may use a person as a scribe to write down the responses to assignments dictated in person or on tape. Both parties would need to be available for the editing process. Through assistive technology, the person experiencing the functional limitation of writing can use a computer with voice dictation software to immediately transcribe and edit their dictation to eText. This facilitates the edit process reducing the entire time to write and correct information and eliminates the scheduling challenges with another person.

AU’s AT services

Just as AU courses use technology and online learning innovations, the Accessibility Services Assistive Technology team is innovative in delivering its services.

AT assessments

An AT assessment is requested by the student. It includes innovative ways for students to evaluate resources and technology that may facilitate the learning journey at Athabasca University.Initial meetings include:

  • discussion
  • introduction to new technologies
  • an opportunity for hands-on self-evaluation
  • remote demonstration or screen share
  • other innovative means

Our assistive tech experts likely have a resource or suggestion for you. We provide needs assessment reports, training, technical support, and advice.

When possible, we may ask students to access a computer (to download trial software) or visit a vendor, website, community agency, or assistive technology lab to try out different products.

Accessibility Services will include assessment recommendations in the Assistive Technology Service and Support Plan (ATSSP) and provide documentation for funding applications.

Once the assessment is complete and recommendations are made, Accessibility Services staff will assist with applications for funding for recommended equipment, software supports, and training.

For more information or to request an assessment or reassessment for assistive technology, contact the AT team in the Accessibility Services department.

AT funding

The price of such technologies may seem unaffordable. However, you may be eligible to apply for various funding opportunities for assistive technologies, technical support, training, and accessibility services. Our Available funding page can provide you with more information about options. Please contact our AT Team in Accessibility Services.


Learning how to use the assistive technology and apply it to the performance of several academic tasks is a critical component of how beneficial the technology may ultimately be. Many factors will have an impact on the amount of training needed and how the training is delivered, including:

  • previous experience
  • training needs using technology
  • amount of funding available
  • type of technology

Accessibility Services will work with you to determine the training requirements and help identify a trainer to deliver the service at a distance or access community resources. Accessibility Services offers training via the following methods:

  • remote access to your computer
  • web seminar
  • training modules (may include videos, PDF, or other resources)
  • contracted trainers

For more information or to request training on assistive technology, contact the AT team in Accessibility Services

Technical support

Our assistive technology specialists compile over 30 years of networking and AT service experience supporting people with disabilities in the AT industry. If solutions are not evident, then the resources provided via knowledgebase, vendor and manufacturer will most likely find the answer.We can help you or connect you to the right resource.

Types of assistive technology

This list of “types of AT” is not all-inclusive. The AT industry has many technology solutions that try to address functional barriers to information access for people with disabilities. The AT Team in Accessibility Services can assist you to find the technology that best suits your needs.

There are a couple do it yourself resources to find various technologies. Please keep in mind they may not be current. - The Adaptech Research Network, Tech Matrix

Updated January 29, 2024 by Digital & Web Operations (